Monday, May 20, 2024

The Butcher of Tehran Dies

It might surprise some people to know that there is still a Jewish community in Iran. There are about 8500 Jews still living there. One of them, a 20 year old by the name of Arvin Ghahremani, has been sentenced to death. JTA reports the following: 

Ghahremani was reportedly involved in an altercation with a non-Jewish man to whom he had loaned money. The man had pulled a knife on Ghahremani, according to accounts shared in the Jewish community, but the altercation ultimately resulted in the other man’s death. 

It seems to me that this was a case of self defense. Long story short - the Iranian justice system didn’t see it that way. Iranian law gives the family of the victim the choice of monetary compensation or capital punishment. They chose the latter. Arvin Ghahremani was scheduled to executed last Shabbos. 

Prayers on his behalf were said by Jewish communities all over the world. There was a world outcry. Ghahremani was given a stay of execution for one month. (That Iran actually responded to all that is in an of itself a miracle, but I digress. Point is that his sentence was not cancelled, just delayed.)

The very next day something extraordinary happened. Instead of a Jew being executed by Iran the president of Iran was ‘executed’ by an act of God. As reported by AP

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the country’s foreign minister were found dead Monday hours after their helicopter crashed in fog, leaving the Islamic Republic without two key leaders as extraordinary tensions grip the wider Middle East.

63 year old Raisi was not a pleasant man. He was a hard line cleric who was known as the ‘Butcher of Tehran’ for his brutal crackdown on political opposition - overseeing the mass executions of thousands in 1988. It was under his rule that a 22 year old woman was arrested and beaten by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab and who later died of her wounds. It was under his rule that over 300 drones and missiles were fired at Israel a few weeks ago. Raisi was also considered by many to be the successor to Iran’s current supreme religious leader, 85 year old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

What is significant to Ghahremani is that no one gets executed in Iran unless its president signs off on it. This does not mean that Ghahremani is off the hook. But perhaps there is a message to Iran in this. Maybe killing Jews is not the way to win God’s good graces.

 Let me be abundantly clear. I am not qualified to know whether this was God’s intent. A lot of people seem to be saying that Raisi’s accidental death was a miracle because of its proximity of Ghahremani’s stay of execution  

Was it an accident? There is no evidence that it was sabotage. But a fog suddenly appearing in the middle of a helicopter flight that brings it down and kills its presidential passenger surely seems like the hand of God.. It surely should give Ayatollah Khamenei second thoughts about his war against the Jews.

Will he get the message and change course? I doubt it. If anything he might read into it an opposite message. That he hasn’t been tough enough on Israel and double down on his anti Israel policies. Will God harden his heart? Will the next president of Iran be an even greater hard liner than Raisi - and order another attack against Israel that will be even deadlier?

I don’t know what the future holds. But the one thing I do know is that both Ghahremani and Israel need our prayers more than ever right now.